Malacañang on Monday said it is the Senate that will decide whether to continue its inquiry into the allegedly ovepriced Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).
“It is up to the Senate to decide what course of action it will take on the ICC investigation,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters when asked about the lawmakers’ call to stop the probe.
“But insofar as accusations of plunder against [Public Works] Secretary [Rogelio] Singson and [Tourism] Secretary [Ramon] Jimenez and Senate President Frank[lin]Drilon are concerned, you cannot ask the owners of Wikipedia to be resource persons,” he said.
Complainant Manuel Mejorada last week said Wikipedia was one of his sources of “evidence” against Drilon.
The Senate President’s colleagues in the blue ribbon committee are divided over a proposal to end the ICC probe.
After holding one hearing last week, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd reportedly said the committee should not continue its probe of the alleged overpricing of the P700-million convention center.
But the committee chairman, Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, has decided to hear testimony of former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, who had filed a separate plunder complaint against Drilon over the ICC.
Mejorada, former Iloilo provincial administrator, admitted during last week’s hearing that he had no evidence to prove that Drilon, Singson and Jimenez had conspired to jack up the cost of the project.
He claimed that the convention center was funded from Drilon’s allocations under the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malacañang’s savings impounding mechanism, the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Drilon has dismissed the charges as malicious and ridiculous.
Sergio Osmena 3rd, committee vice chairman, does not think so, however.
He said also also on Monday he is not in favor of terminating the inquiry, citing the public’s wish for “transparency.”
“My stand is for the interest of transparency. There are facts in the ICC issue that [are]yet to be revealed, so let’s not close the probe yet,” Osmena told reporters in an interview.
The center was allegedly overpriced by more than P500 million.
Osmena said he is pushing for continuing the probe to disabuse the public’s perception that the Guingona panel is being selective on who to investigate.
He rejected claims that the ICC probe is a waste of time because Mejorada failed to prove his allegations, noting that he was not able to present hard documents, which, he said, could be subpoenaed anyway.
“He [Mejorada] had good arguments and, if you could convict by circumstantial evidence, he will be able to make his case,” Osmena explained.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also last week supported stopping the ICC probe but has since said the committee should still proceed with its probe and listen to Syjuco’s testimony .
Opposition senators Nancy Binay and Joseph Victor Ejercito have insisted that the investigation on the ICC should continue to show to the public that the Guingona panel is not being selective on who to probe.
Ejercito said the panel should show the same interest in the ICC probe as it had displayed in inquiring into the Makati City Hall Building 2.